- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

President Bush yesterday rejected House Republicans’ stance that illegal aliens must return home, calling it “wrong and unrealistic” and saying many will have to be allowed to stay.

Speaking to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a block from the White House, Mr. Bush also directly challenged businesses to hire only legal workers, and said those that don’t should be prepared to face increased fines. In addition, he said both the House and Senate will have to compromise, but said voters expect a bill and he said that bill should tackle both enforcement and a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens.

“The difficulty of this task is no excuse for avoiding it,” he said.

Mr. Bush was making his first in-depth comments since the Senate passed its broad immigration bill last week, setting up a showdown over immigration policy with the House, which passed an enforcement bill in December.

Last Friday, and again on Sunday, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he cannot accept any approach that allows illegal aliens to stay in the country with the government’s approval.

“The words ‘path to citizenship’ is a buzzword for amnesty. We ought to be honest — it is amnesty,” Mr. Sensenbrenner, a key House negotiator, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. He contends that more enforcement against employers would make it hard for illegal aliens to get jobs, encouraging them to go home.

But Mr. Bush dismissed that argument.

“Listen, I appreciate the members are acting on deeply felt principles. I understand that. Yet I also believe that the approach they suggest is wrong and unrealistic,” he said.

He said his own plan to allow illegal aliens with “a home, a family and a clean record” to stay is the “rational middle ground” between amnesty and the House Republicans’ approach.

The president plans to travel to New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska next week to stress his plans for border security and push lawmakers to pass a bill.

Mr. Bush drew praise yesterday from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a key Democrat on the issue. He said Mr. Bush was “right on the mark” in telling Congress to get a broad bill done.

But Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, demanded the president do more to distance himself from the House bill.

Mr. Bush does differ with the Senate on one key provision — the Senate bill creates a pre-immigrant visa, under which some illegal aliens and future foreign workers would be on a path to citizenship. While Mr. Bush supports that for illegal aliens, he has consistently opposed that for future workers.

“Temporary workers must return to their homes at the conclusion of their stay,” he said yesterday.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, praised that stance, saying a “future temporary-worker plan must be just that: temporary.”

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